Vision: A Resource for Writers
Comment on Parallel Worlds
you're building a parallel world. What does that mean? Star Trek watchers may
remember the episode when Kirk found himself in a parallel universe, on his
ship, with this crew…only they were evil, and the Federation was an evil
empire. That's one example of a parallel world. But there are others.
just finished the second draft of a novel set in a parallel world. The
protagonist is a straight man in a world where everyone is gay and faces life as
a sexual minority. Some parts of this parallel world need little explanation.
Since my book is set in Seattle in 2003, readers have an idea of the
technological aspects of American society, and because I occasionally reference
history and pop culture, they recognize a common understanding of the setting.
They assume that all the physical laws and sciences work in the manner to which
they are accustomed, unless I explain differently. My explanation must be good
enough for them to suspend disbelief and continue on.
finishing my first draft, I jubilantly took my manuscript to the best-known
discount POD publisher in the country: Kinko's.
There I had a half dozen reader's copies printed. The first question on
each of the three I got back was the same: If straight people compose less than
ten percent of the population, how do babies get made?
initial thoughts ran along the lines of the misunderstood artist: It's not important
how babies get made. Don't you see that this is a social commentary
designed to get you to challenge stereotypes and notions of heterosexism by
putting straight people in the oppressed position?
these weren't the first words out of my mouth, as I believe that the
responsibility for accurate communication lies with the sender. The receiver
just receives. The sender has to transmit the correct data for the receiver to
get the correct picture, and if readers have questions, I can't go to each of
them and explain the answer verbally. I need to do it in-text. It occurred to me
that regardless of my intended message, my readers could not ignore a glaring
inconsistency just for the sake of argument. One can do that without
prior explanation in the 'mental experiments' common to the fields of physics
and quantum mechanics (like Schrodinger's Cat), but not in a novel.
that brings us back to worldbuilding in a parallel
world/universe/dimension/space-time continuum. Parallel worlds will require a
suspension of disbelief, like all fiction, but it needs to have some background
in order to make it real. If Michael Crichton
had started Jurassic Park
with ImGen cloning dinosaurs, and without explaining where they got the dinosaur
DNA, it would have been difficult to suspend disbelief regardless of how good
the rest of the novel's parallel world turned out to be.
premises must precede diversions from current reality. The believable premise in
Star Trek wasn't the transporter accident that sent Kirk to the parallel
world--that was the catalyst--it was that the Enterprise was in uncharted
territory, making new discoveries, with each of those discoveries altering the
way the human race understands the universe. That parallel universe was yet
another discovery, equally as fantastic as the ones the Enterprise made before
my novel, the believable premise went back three thousand years, to artificial
insemination practiced by the ancient Egyptians, among other societies. It's
true that this isn't important to the setting of my novel; however, it is vital
that the reader know and accept the underlying thesis. As you build parallel
worlds, pay attention to the why as well as to the what. Your readers will.
Park, Michael Crichton,